The gap between property prices in the capital and those elsewhere in the country are the narrowest it has been for almost a decade, as reported in today’s Times Bricks & Mortar. Our Director, Jennie Hancock, speaks with journalist Carol Lewis about what she is seeing in West Sussex, as the balance of the country’s property market shifts as working from home takes hold. Read the full article here. (paywall)

I read and hear about stories of frustrated country house buyers all the time, who either can’t find a home they desire, are being continuously outbid on the little stock that is available, regret the location they have moved to or have paid too high a purchase price. Buying agents have never been so busy as a result, as savvy purchasers realise that in today’s current market, they stand a far better chance of securing their dream house in the West Sussex countryside or on the coast at a fraction of the cost, with somebody who is actually on their side.

So what is a buying agent and why are we proving so valuable in today’s property market?

A buying agent is a property expert who acts on behalf of the purchaser to find them a new home and to buy it. Anybody who is looking via an estate agent won’t be offered quite the same opportunities and advice because of course, the company is acting on behalf of the seller and not the buyer. Whereas a buying agent’s job is to actively find a house that matches their clients’ requirements, before negotiating the price and terms on their behalf. They also provide valuable advice to ensure purchasers are buying the right property in the right location for the right price, and to put them in the best possible buying position to maximise their chances of appealing to a seller.

People use buying agents for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps they don’t have the time, are relocating and are not familiar with the location or they have just had enough of the intense buyer competition on the open market. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of benefits:

 

Access to off market homes

It is no secret that demand far outweighs supply at the moment, which is making it very hard for people to find the dream country house they want in West Sussex. However, there are actually properties for sale, it’s just that they’re not seen online or in an estate agent’s window display – they’re selling ‘off market’ or ‘quietly’ as it’s also known as. The joy of a buying agent is that a good one will have great connections with local estate agents, combined with their own insight into local village life, and will know what is coming up for sale – often weeks in advance of the general public being made aware. A buying agent’s clients tend to therefore be the ones who get first dibs on these houses, offering a much better chance of finding something with less competition.

 

Stop you overpaying 

Anything in a sellers’ market has been selling over guide price generally as demand has been so intense, but a good buying agent will provide advice on what is the best offer to present based on the seller’s situation. They will have done all of the homework for you already so that they know the seller’s reason for sale, and whether there will be any unexpected costs in terms of repairs or renovations that may need doing. This ensures you don’t overpay as tempting as it may be  – something I have seen a lot of during Covid-19!

 

Positioning you as the best buyer

It’s not always about offering the highest price for sellers. Depending on their situation, they may want to leave as soon as possible, so somebody who can move the fastest tends to hold most appeal. A good buying agent will only work with a purchaser who is ready to financially proceed, so this puts them in good stead in the eyes of the seller in this situation immediately. I’ve also worked on deals where the sellers have lived in a house for many many years with their children, and want to find a buyer who has a young family themselves who wish to bring them up at the property like they did. With sellers struggling to find a home themselves to purchase, some are looking for buyers who are prepared to agree to a delayed completion to allow them more time to find something. It’s all about ‘selling’ the buyer into the seller and knowing what sort of price they will accept, and this can only truly happen by knowing exactly what the vendor’s story is.

 

Saving time

Buying agents can save purchasers a lot of time and stress from searching for a property, especially if you are not familiar with the location. They’ll do all the research, find houses you are actually looking for and will conduct viewings first, before short listing what they feel are the best ones for you to view yourself. This saves a lot of time wastage on finding something and on viewings, where properties don’t end up being what they appear to be on paper.

 

Honesty

If there are any negatives or concerns for a property, price or the location, a buying agent will tell you. If the house is next door to a pig farm, it’s probably not going to smell very nice. If the main road on the door step is notoriously noisy, you’re probably going to regret living there. If the price is too high or offers are going in way over guide, it’s probably best to walk away. This level of honesty and advice provides a safety net of getting the location right, not having any unexpected costs further down the line such as expensive repairs, and not over paying.

 

For more advice about purchasing a home in West Sussex, contact Jennie Hancock , on +44 (0)7776452128 or jh@propertyacquisitions.co.uk. 

With a record-breaking drought of properties for sale, buyers face huge competition to get an offer accepted. I provide some top tips for buyers in today’s Daily Telegraph which focus around offering sellers a delayed completion. Read the full article here, whilst I list the benefits on my blog.

Since the pandemic began last year, the West Sussex property market has been red hot, as buyers scramble to get their hands on the best country houses for sale. However, for many it has come at a price, and a considerably hefty one at that, as competitive bidding wars have meant purchasers have been paying (and are still paying) substantial premiums in order to secure the sale.

The scarcity of good quality houses has played a significant role, as have the two stamp duty holiday deadlines. Let’s not forget Covid-19 itself either, as buyers young and old revaluate their lives and head off in search for a better life in the peaceful, clean air surroundings of West Sussex.

However, it seems those who did pay a premium for their pandemic purchases are now realising the consequences of what they paid. Recently, Aviva showed 94% of the homeowners they surveyed who agreed sales during the pandemic felt the pressure to buy quickly. Interestingly, 15% knew they were going to make an offer within twenty minutes of their viewing! Other stats show that 50% of recent buyers regretted how much they paid for their homes. 23% said they agreed a figure above the asking price, and shockingly, 92% of buyers found issues with their properties such as vermin, subsidence, poor insulation, damp, mould, bad plumbing, and faulty fittings costing over £10,000. Some of those people had to pay more than £20,000.

It’s easy to understand why this has happened if these buyers weren’t being given the professional guidance that they needed at the time. There aren’t that many properties for sale and knowing how fast they’re selling, it’s easy for buyers to get pulled into the bidding war scenario – especially if they have fallen in love with the home. So, with all of this in mind, I thought I would suggest my top tips for buying in 2022…

 

Location

Location is always at the top of my list when it comes to advising clients on buying a house. Get this wrong and you risk selling up sooner than you had planned. This doesn’t just have to include the area you’re planning on living in. You also need to consider whether you’d be living next door to a pig farm for example (it will smell a lot, especially in summer!), or on a busy main road. You won’t appreciate the mad rush of commuter and school traffic that happens multiple times a day whilst relaxing in your garden, or having your Sunday lie in disrupted by weekend traffic buzzing past your front door. If you’re looking at a village, see how close you are to local amenities such as shops, schools and the nearest train station too. Panic buying on location can be costly. They cause expensive mistakes and often people end up having to search again in two to three years time.

 

Don’t panic buy

Be prepared to walk away. Easier said than done, I know, but hasty decisions are being made because buyers think they won’t find a house. However, you will in time – I promise. I strongly advised a client during the pandemic that they didn’t purchase a house in the south downs as I knew from the estate agent that the offers coming in were 20+% over asking price. My buyer walked away from the property and I managed to find them something just as good elsewhere quickly, for a lot less money as it was off market and nobody else knew about it.

 

View more than once

Of course it’s easy to fall in love with a home on the first viewing, we’ve all been guilty of it at some point, but you must do your homework before committing to anything. Book your second viewing as soon as possible after the first. This is to ensure you are still able to put in an offer should it end up in a best and final or sealed bid scenario. It’s worth visiting the house again in the dark, so you can get a feel for what it’s like then, and/or at a different time to the first viewing so you can ascertain whether you can hear main road traffic now that the wind has changed direction or the commuter traffic whizzing along a mile down the road between 7am-9am. Sunlight is also a consideration – if you enjoy a gin and tonic on a summers afternoon in the sunshine, then you want to ensure the sun is in fact shining on your patio or garden at the time you want it to. By organising a second viewing, you are minimising the risk of rushing to purchase something that may not actually be suitable for you.

 

Do your research

If you are using a buying agent they will research everything on your behalf, but if you’re going it alone, you need to know quite a few things before making an offer. Investigate the reason for the sale and the ownership history, as these can often raise red flags. For example, if the vendor has been in the house a long time it demonstrates they love their home and can give you confidence it’s a lovely place to live, but if it has changed hands multiple times in ten years then I’d find that concerning. It could be the road position and it’s too noisy, or perhaps it’s a bad farm smell, a horrid neighbour or a damp problem and so on. If you’re a family and schools are important to you, find out how far away educational facilities are. If you’re a commuter, where is the station? If you need local amenities within walking distance, make sure you’ve worked out how long it would take to get to them. Ask about how much the house costs to run too.

 

Consider temporarily renting

It may cost a few thousand to rent for six months, but renting is worth considering when low stock is causing purchase prices to be pushed up. If you can, wait, as historically Spring is the best time to be buying a country house as gardens are in their full glory and everything looks wonderful for photos and viewings. This tempts vendors of these homes into selling, bringing far more houses to market for buyers to look at. This automatically helps stabilise prices due to the better balance between demand and supply. Many of these will be off market however and will not hit the property portals – which is where the benefit of a buying agent comes in.

 

Offer the seller a delayed completion

Sellers will be struggling to find a house too, so it’s worth offering them a delayed completion date which gives them the assurance of an exchange so that they can become a proceedable buyer for their seller. This flexibility can often tempt them into accepting your offer over the highest bidder. Other benefits for buyers include allowing time to seek planning permission, architects and builders for any alterations you plan to make. This is especially true now when Covid-19 has caused huge delays with planners, whilst builders are so busy with business there are long waiting times to book them in. For anybody moving from overseas, a delayed completion is ideal should you wish to secure the house via exchange and then wait until you are back in the UK to complete. You also have more time to secure the funds from the sale of your own home in order to complete the purchase.

 

Reduce your budget

With the sorts of prices being paid, I am actually advising clients to under budget at the moment. For example, if you are looking for a house around £2million, reduce this to £1.75m/£1.8million to take into account the premium you will most likely be paying. This is especially true if you go to sealed bids or best and finals where buyers are paying 10-20% over asking price. It also allows for any unexpected costs. There’s quite a lot of hidden expenditure if you don’t do your research properly. For example, a survey could say you’ll need to spend an extra £100k on the property due to a number of hidden issues, pushing the budget way out of control.

 

Manage expectations

If you fall in love with a house you see, but somebody snatches it up from underneath you, it can be quite a downer. I’m all for keeping your glass half full, but in this game, it’s important to be realistic that there a is a high chance you will be outbid in the current market. Obviously be excited, but try to keep emotion out of it. Property is an asset class at the end of the day and needs to be seen as an investment that works for you now and in the long-term.

 

Retain a buying agent

A good buying agent will do all of the leg work for you, minimise risk by providing you the expert advice you need, whilst giving access to properties off market that nobody else knows about – reducing competitive bidding tremendously.

 

For more advice about purchasing a home in West Sussex, contact our Director at Property Acquisitions, Jennie Hancock , on +44 (0)7776452128 or jh@propertyacquisitions.co.uk. 

If you’re thinking about moving to the Sussex coast or wanting to buy a holiday home there, why not consider West Wittering? I talk about how the local property market has become Britain’s answer to the Hamptons in the latest issue of Country & Town House  on page 210.

Do get in touch if I can chat to you further about purchasing a property in West Wittering on +44 (0)7776452128 or jh@propertyacquisitions.co.uk. 

The fiercely competitive West Sussex property market has caused property owners to see the benefits of being a chain free buyer. If they are able to purchase a home without the need to sell another, they would be considered one. Many require a mortgage still, but the best purchasers we deal with are cash rich.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, my clients have all been chain free. This is a vast change to pre Covid-19 where chain free buyers were only half. I believe we are seeing a change now because competition for good quality country houses in sought after villages has gone from strength to strength. In the thirty plus years that I have been in the industry, I have not seen anything quite like it. In order to strengthen their position therefore, buyers are realising they become very attractive to sellers if they do not need to sell first or raise funds, putting them at an advantage over other purchasers.

Here are a few reasons why sellers prefer chain free buyers…

Less risk of the sale falling through

Having a buyer pull out of a sale is a seller’s worst fear. It is hugely stressful and causes everything to fall apart. With one in four property sales falling through in the UK, it’s of no surprise they feel this way. If a buyer doesn’t need to sell in order to proceed with the purchase of another property, this means the risk of them having to pull out is minimised, putting them in good stead in the eyes of a seller.

Shorter property transactions

Intense demand combined with Covid delays and everybody rushing to make the various stamp duty holiday deadlines has caused a huge backlog for pushing properties through to completion. If somebody is buying chain free however, this does help shorten the process. In fact, research has found chain free buyers can reduce the conveyancing process by as much as eight weeks!

Less stress

Moving home is supposed to be the third most stressful thing anybody can do. Having a chain free buyer is a generally a less stressful option for a seller as the sale is pretty much guaranteed to progress without much delay, and with minimal risk of falling through.

 

It’s therefore very tempting for a seller to accept an offer from a chain free buyer, especially one who has the cash rather than relying on raising a mortgage.

There are further benefits for buyers too. Purchasers tend to be in an enhanced position to negotiate on price. I have had many occasions where sellers have actually accepted my clients’ offers even though they weren’t the highest bidder. This was because they presented themselves as a less risky proposition. Also, stress levels are reduced because buyers don’t need to worry about selling their property in order to proceed with their purchase.

For more advice about purchasing a home as a chain free buyer, contact our Director at Property Acquisitions, Jennie Hancock , on 44 (0)7776452128 or jh@propertyacquisitions.co.uk. 

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